Earlier today Drays Bay compared Jason Bartlett’s 2008 defensive metrics to previous years and wondered why he was “not as good as perceived” prior to the season.
Essentially every metric that had a crush on Bartlett prior to 2008 gave him the cold shoulder. That’s bad, namely because those same metrics gave us hope that Bartlett was a defensive wizard, and while he looked good, he apparently was not as good as perceived. The problem for us, and the Rays, is deciding whether this is indicative of a true talent change or simply an anomaly.
Other than the obvious explanations, such as his shoulder injury in April and the knee injury late in the season, there is another simple explanation for the statistical drop-off in Bartlett’s defense.
Below you will see a graph representing Bartlett’s 2007 “Probabilistic Model of Range” as presented by Baseball Musings.
- The far left portion of the graph represents the third base line, while the far right represents the first base line. “2B” represents the second base bag.
- The peak of the graph in essence represents where Bartlett would usually be positioned. So anything to the left of the peak represents groundballs that Bartlett would have to move to his right (towards third base) to field. While anything to the right of the peak represents groundballs that Bartlett would have to move towards the second base bag to field.
As we can see, Bartlett fielded more groundballs in 2007 than would be predicted. However, Bartlett was much better moving towards third base (left of the peak on the graph). Bartlett’s actual outs were much higher than predicted on balls hit right at him and on groundballs to his right (towards third base). On groundballs hit to his left (towards second base) Bartlett was only average.
This is where Longoria comes in. Baseball Musings does not have Bartlett’s graph for 2008 yet, but we can compare the Probabilistic Model of Range for Bartlett’s third basemen in 2007 and 2008.
In 2007, Twins third basemen ranked 25th in baseball, making 13 fewer outs than predicted. On the other hand, in 2008, Longoria ranked 3rd in the majors in Probabilistic Model of Range for third basemen, making 17 more outs than expected. That is a difference of 30 outs by third basemen from 2007 to 2008.
This is important because a third baseman is closer to the batter and essentially has “dibs” on balls hit in the hole between the shortstop and third baseman. A third baseman with excellent range, like Longoria, means fewer balls are getting to the shortstop. And it is those groundballs that Bartlett feasted on in 2007.
A healthy Bartlett will go a long way towards reestablishing him as one of the premiere defensive shortstops in baseball (statistically), but as long as Longoria is manning the hot corner, Bartlett no longer has to be Superman.